Ladies in Love
By Skip Sheffield
“Freeheld” is based on the true story of Laurel Hester, a New Jersey police woman. Laurel was the very definition of good cop in the bad world of northern coastal Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Laurel’s partner was Dane Wells (Michael Shannon), a gruff, tough, but compassionate cop who relished bringing down bad people.
We first see Laurel and Dane in action, busting chops on the boardwalk. Then we see Laurel in a bar that obviously caters to homosexual people. Laurel is a lesbian, still in the closet. When she spies Stacee Andree (Ellen Page), something clicks. Stacee is half the age and almost half the size of Laurel, but she is one feisty, charmingly butch chick.
Ellen Page came out publicly in 2014. She is a producer of this film, and she specifically requested Julianne Moore play the role of Laurel Hester. She made the right choice. Julianne Moore is one of the finest actresses of our time. It doesn’t hurt that she is exquisitely beautiful. Moore does doomed characters like no other woman. Though she is hetero, she is absolutely convincing as lovelorn Laurel Hester, who meets the woman of her dreams only to be dealt a death sentence of lung cancer. Written by Ron Nyswaner (“The Painted Veil”) and directed by Peter Sollet (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”), “Freeheld” is one of the most caring, compassionate arguments for legal same-sex marriages ever. Laurel Hester was denied assigning her pension benefits to her partner, although the State of New Jersey recognized domestic partnerships in 2005, the year before Laurel Hester died. “Freeheld” is about doing the right thing, regardless of one’s personal beliefs. Some people won’t like this, but they are unlikely to go to this movie anyway.